The Ins and Outs of Soccer

Played indoors, soccer remains a great game, but equipment needs can differ.
 
Did you know that more people play soccer than any other sport in the world? An estimated 265 million, in fact, and that’s more than those who play basketball, baseball, football, tennis and golf!
 
Soccer, which is known as football in most countries, has traditionally been an outdoor sport. However, in recent decades a growing trend has been taking the internationally beloved game indoors. Today, indoor leagues are growing in number, and players of all ages are kicking the soccer ball both in the great outdoors and in arenas. The indoor sport is particularly popular in the northern United States and Canada, where the outdoor season is brief and facilities built for hockey and basketball are readily available for indoor soccer games.
 
The outdoor and indoor games are similar in that players use their feet (and sometimes their heads) to drive a ball into a goal and score points, but there are some differences that are game changers.
 
Indoor fields, for example, are half the size of their 400-foot outdoor counterparts. In other words, they’re the same size as the ice rinks on which hockey is played. That’s no coincidence since many indoor soccer venues are converted hockey arenas. Most are covered with artificial turf, although the game is sometimes played on hardwood basketball courts. Some rules are different as well. There are no kick-ins, throw-ins or out-of-bounds in indoor soccer. Because the playing area of a hockey arena is walled in, the ball remains in play if it bounces off the walls. If the ball clears the wall, the team that touched it last is allowed a free kick at the spot where the ball left the arena. The sliding tackle, a useful tactic on outdoors grass, is banned by most indoor leagues, since it can result in injury on hard indoor surfaces. The offside rule, common to outdoor soccer, is not enforced by most indoor leagues. Many indoor leagues use a penalty box where the player must sit out a yellow-card infraction. Again, hockey arenas, which include a penalty box, make this rule convenient.
 
Of course, it’s not just field size and rules that distinguish the indoor game from the outdoor variety. Whether you can move like Messi or bend it like Beckham is dependent in part on the equipment with which you play the game – equipment that is specific to indoor and outdoor play.
 
From the Ground Up
 
Since soccer is played primarily with the feet, selecting a shoe is among the most important gear choices a soccer player has to make, so let’s talk about shoes first. In general, there are two types: outdoor cleats and indoor turf shoes.
 
Outdoor cleats are made of rubber, plastic or metal and are designed to dig into grassy fields for better grip. And, according to Peter Hong, assistant merchandise manager for adidas, there are a few things you should keep in mind when choosing a pair.
 
Fit is the most important thing to consider. A shoe that’s too big or small will not only hurt your feet but it can also affect your touch and feel when handling the ball. Technology is key to both how the shoe contributes to speed afoot and ball handling capability, and all of the adidas lines are designed with different properties in mind. For example, the F50 line – Hong’s favorite – was designed in collaboration with Lionel Messi, one of the game’s fastest players. So it’s not surprising that the shoe is engineered to optimize speed. That capability is in part the result of a new stud configuration meant to enable maximum acceleration on firm ground. The shoe features a new lightweight HybridTouch synthetic leather upper so its weight won’t drag you down. DribbleTex technology provides a textured grip to enable high-speed dribbling and excellent ball control under all conditions.
 
The brilliantly colored Nitrocharge shoe was inspired by Brazil, site of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, and that country’s carnival tradition. With EnergyPulse design, the Nitrocharge optimizes energy transfer and provides a claw-like grip on firm ground. Its lightweight design and glove-like feel optimize ball handling.
 
Turf shoes designed for indoor soccer have small rubber cleats or a flat, rubber bottom to keep you from damaging the carpet while providing better traction on hard surfaces. Your Dunham’s sales consultant can help you choose a shoe that’s just right for your soccer league.
 
Shin guards and balls are also important parts of both indoor and outdoor games, and adidas makes them in various styles, sizes and colors. Some indoor players wear extra protective gear in that fast play on hardwood floors or firm turf is more likely to result in injury than is outdoor play on grass. Even the balls used indoors are different than those used outdoors and are designed specifically for the fast pace of arena play.
 
So, whether you’re looking for the latest technology in cleats, cool turf shoes in more colors than you can imagine, or shin guards to match your gear, a wealth of options are available at Dunham’s, where you’re sure to score something that’s perfect for you.
 
-Soccer Mom
 
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Football-Soccer Ball Fundamentals

Learn the basics of ball size, construction and certification.

 
Nike soccer balls are fast, round, responsive and durable. Explore the inner and outer workings of each ball and learn a little about certification too.
 

Ball Sizes

 
Soccer balls come in different sizes. Kids usually kick a size 3 ball. Players 8 – 11 years old typically play with a size 4 ball. A size 5 ball is the most common. It’s the official size for high school and professional play. Players can also use size 1 miniature skills balls for practice.
 

Did You Know?

 
Soccer balls designed specifically for Futsal, or other small-sided games are available in Youth size 3 or Pro size 4.
 

Ball Construction

 

Ball Casing

 
The outer layer of a soccer ball is called the casing. Nike soccer balls are most commonly made with a polyurethane (PU) or thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) casing.
 

PU casing

 
Absorbs less moisture for more consistent, durable performance in varying weather conditions. And it’s much softer than traditional polyvinyl chloride (PVC), especially in colder temperatures.
 

TPU casing

 
Provides a soft feel to the ball and is a great value for consumers.
 
Leather typically isn’t used on soccer balls because of its tendency to retain water. Retaining water makes for a heavy ball that doesn’t move quickly on the field.
 

Graphic or Color

 
As part of the casing, graphics or color is used to help players read the ball better, especially when in flight.
 

Asymmetrical Graphics

 
Some soccer balls have asymmetrical graphics, creating a break in the pattern to help you judge the ball flight, trajectory and spin.
 

Hi-vis Color Combinations

 
These combos make it easier to see the ball in low-light conditions.
 

Nike RaDaR Technology

 
With a scientifically tested combination of color, contrast and graphic design placement, Nike RaDaR technology offers a pronounced visual signal that helps players quickly identify the ball and its movement.
 

Did You Know?

 
A soccer ball may be kicked up to 2,000 times in an average match.
 

Ball Panels

 
Casings are made up of different shapes of panels. The number of panels varies between 32 for the traditional, everyday ball to 26-panel (and even 12-panel balls) that offer increased durability and enhanced touch because of fewer seams.
 
Panels can be stitched by machine or hand. To distinguish between the two types of construction, look at the stitches. In a machine-sewn ball, the stitches are more visible.
 

Machine-sewn

 
Requires thicker casing and a foam underlay, often EVA, to withstand the automated stitching process.
 

Hand-sewn

 
Provides highest quality.
 

Geo-Balanced II

 
Nike soccer balls that use the Geo Balanced II technology have an advanced panel pattern to create a soccer ball that is faster, rounder and more responsive.
 
Special configurations of hexagons and pentagons allow uniform dispersion of air inside the casing.
 
The center of each panel aligns with the center of the bladder, which makes the ball rounder. And rounder balls have a straighter flight.
 
They also have better durability since they wear more evenly instead of getting worn down on particular spots.
 

Ball Bladder/Lining

 
Beneath the soccer ball casing, a bladder and lining hold the air in and provide shape retention. Bladders are made of either: butyl, latex or rubber.
 

Butyl Bladders

 
Reduce rebound for better performance on hard surfaces and provide optimal air retention.
 

Latex Bladders

 
Used in pinnacle soccer balls – they offer high-energy return for powerful shots.
 

Rubber Bladders

 
Often have an extra layer inside to create maximum shape retention, bringing performance to value-priced balls.
 

Nike Exclusive 6-wing Bladder

 
Improves overall roundness because there are more touch points on the casing than a typical 4-wing bladder.
 

Did You Know?

 
Some soccer balls created specifically for Futsal (or small-sided games) have a bladder filled with foam instead of air. Using foam gives the ball less bounce, making it easier to control on hard surfaces.
 

Ball Certification

 
Certification stamps on soccer balls are important because they help differentiate the performance and price.
 

FIFA Approved

 
Look for the FIFA approved mark to identify the highest guaranteed quality and consistency in the world. FIFA approved balls pass seven tests that measure:
 
1. Circumference
2. Roundness
3. Rebounding
4. Weight
5. Pressure
6. Water absorption
7. Shape and size retention
 

What is FIFA?

 
FIFA stands for the Federation Internationale de Football Association. It’s the world governing body for soccer and has over 200 member nations.
 
Another, independent certification is International Matchball Standard, or IMS.
 
And an NFHS stamp means the ball is approved for high-school play.
 
-Soccer Mom
 
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